Stories about: stress

Ask the expert: How to handle back-to-school stress

Carolyn Snell, PhD

My child has expressed some anxiety about going back to school. How can I help?

Anxious in Andover

Back-to-school can be a stressful time for children of all ages, as well as for their parents. Children and teens may worry about practical things such as being able to find their way around the school building, may have concerns about their ability to get work done and receive good grades, or may experience anxiety related to friends and peer relationships as the year begins.

One way that parents can help is by giving children information or experiences beforehand that allow them to have a clearer idea about what to expect. For example, sharing information with a young child about what the classroom schedule and routine will be like, or about the child’s teachers, can help kids feel prepared.

Read more, and watch this video interview with Dr. Snell to learn how to help your child.

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The science of stress

Adolescence is a hard time for just about everyone. School pressure, changing relationships, craving the independence of adulthood while clinging to the security of childhood; it can all lead to a lot of emotional turmoil. But while the stress of growing up may be almost universal, how teens handle it varies wildly.

Data shows that poor reaction to stress can lead to the onset of mental illnesses and associated problems like substance abuse or antisocial behavior. In many cases, the first signs of these disorders surface when the person is feeling stressed. Research also shows that adolescents who have experienced trauma or adversity when they were younger, like the death of a close relative or abandonment by a parent, are more likely to have mental health issues triggered by stress, compared to people who have never faced that kind of hardship.

Even though there’s plenty of research linking stress and early adversity to mental disorders, there are very few studies looking at how the two are connected. Why does early life adversity or trauma make some people more prone to mental illness, especially when dealing with stressful situations? And if warning signs are identified early enough, can these problems be avoided? These are questions Boston Children’s Hospital researcher Kate McLaughlin, PhD, is trying to answer. McLaughlin, along with Margaret Sheridan, PhD, are analyzing how teenagers’ brains react to stress. The project involves over 200 adolescents, some with mental health issues and some without, as well as teens who have experienced early life adversity and others who haven’t.

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Coping with the stress of a childhood illness

Childhood illness can be difficult on the whole family. Shannon Kaiser, a blogger and mother of two chronically ill children, shares how she and her husband deal with the stress created by their children’s medical conditions.

If you drove by my house while the kids were getting ready for school this morning, it would’ve looked like a scene from an old TV show. Lunches were handed out, good-bye hugs given, and in a blur three of my kids are out the door, laughing and running towards the big yellow school bus at the end of the street.

Seems picture perfect, doesn’t it?

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Less stress is best: taking the anxiety out of pregnancy is better for you—and your baby

Claire McCarthyAs a pregnant mother, there’s always something to worry about. You worry about the health of the baby. You worry about what you should or shouldn’t do (because you are worried about the health of the baby). You worry about the delivery. You worry about paying for everything a child needs. You worry about finding good childcare. You worry about whether you’ll be a good parent.

Now there’s a study in the journal Pediatrics telling us that pregnant mothers have something else to worry about: the worrying itself.

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